Committee clears three-year hunting, fishing licenses

BOISE, Idaho (AP) A bill that would allow the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to begin selling licenses good for three years to resident and out-of-state hunters and anglers sailed through a Senate committee Wednesday.

Agency officials, citing internal research, say multiyear permits for sportsmen of all ages are popular and have the potential to generate more revenue.

Sharon Kiefer, the department's deputy director, told lawmakers the option to buy a three-year license would help reduce inconsistency in year-to-year permit sales.

Results from a survey sent to more than 9,500 Idaho sportsmen also shows a three-year permit option would appeal to younger hunters and anglers, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24. Wildlife officials in Idaho and many other states are trying to persuade that demographic to spend more time fishing lakes and rivers and hunting deer and elk in the backcountry.

"Our intent is to keep our customers engaged in the outdoors," Kiefer said.

The Senate Resources and Environment Committee unanimously approved the bill Wednesday, sending it to the Senate floor for debate.

The agency doesn't have the authority to set license fees, and Kiefer said administrators this year chose to avoid making a legislative case for a discount on the price of a three-year license. Consequently, the multiyear license offers little savings, though buyers can avoid the annual dealer fees attached to the sale of one-year licenses.

Agency officials estimate the three-year license would generate more than $1.2 million in revenue based on 2012 license figures and an assumption that at least 10 percent of resident hunters and anglers would ante up for the three-year permit. The bill requires the agency to spread the revenue gleaned from the multiyear permits over three fiscal years.

"The department does not intend to spend the revenue all in one year," Kiefer said.

One goal of the three-year license is to reduce "churn," the industry term used to define when anglers or hunters go one or more years without renewing their license.

An agency analysis of its fishing license database during the past decade showed that of those who bought a fishing license for the first time, 30 percent failed to buy another permit within 10 years, while only 5 percent renewed all 10 years. The only other multiyear license option provided by the agency is a lifetime permit.